Monday, January 31, 2011

Mike Jackson Interviewed on Sea Kayak

Local kayaker Mike Jackson is Simon Willis' latest interview subject at Sea Kayak
During the 30 minute podcast, Mike gives Simon a quick tour of all the kayaking hotspots around Vancouver Island, the where-to-go's and the how-to-get-there's. It sounds like Simon was throughly convinced that his kayaking destination in 2012 should be Vancouver Island.
Check out the interview with Mike at Sea Kayak, and while you're visiting check out the dozens of other informative and entertaining kayaking podcasts archived there.

Cold Company

Unlike the rest of the duck-watching crew, I did actually get out on the water Sunday. It was only in my small inflatable, and only for an hour, but it was still good. And cold. Not as cold as some days I've been out... didn't wear a paddle jacket over my shortie wetsuit, just a merino wool sweater. (Mmmm! wool sweaters are great. I picked up a couple at a thrift store four years ago, and they still work great when paddling. Not a great fashion statement, but then, neither is the wetsuit.)
I wasn't the only kayaker at Gyro Park, either -- Gordon was launching at the same time. He's the guy who writes the Victoria Kayaker blog. We chatted for a while and then I hopped into the Dragonfly and scooted away. It took a bit longer for him to get his Romany kayak loaded and ready to cross over to Discovery Island. He was headed over to meet some friends who camped out there this weekend.
The friends I saw while kayaking weren't kayakers. They were ducks! I saw a sharp-looking merganser and some buffleheads. I wanted to stay out longer than I did, and I'd even feathered my paddle to make paddling in a breeze a bit easier. But at Stein Island a bunch of small ducks let me know that I'd gone far enough for one day, and they Didn't Want Me Here, NOW. I took the hint.
Later after a marvellous bowl of hot cocolate at Olive Olio's, when we walked over to Mystic Pond to do some duck-watching, we saw an extra car parked at Mike Jackson's place, and guessed that he was one of the campers. Turned out we were right! He wrote about it on his blog.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Just Ducky

We had planned for a paddle out to Discovery Island today. The currents were perfect for a nice paddle out to the island, but the weather changed on us and a cold weather front came in overnight. We woke up to below zero wind chills and a 20+ kmh breeze. Which isn't to say that some people didn't go kayaking today - we saw at least seven vehicles with kayak racks parked at Gyro Park as no doubt many paddlers ventured out to play in Baynes Channel, but, as noted here before, we're wimpy paddlers. (And it wasn't all fun and games out there today -- a pair of men in a dinghy were lucky to be rescued in nearby Oak Bay when they got dumped later in the day. They were out setting crab traps but the crabs almost got their revenge.)
We went for coffee, then went for a short walk to nearby Mystic Pond.
A number of creeks run into this pond, smack dab in the middle of this urban residential area. The creeks and pond are under a covenant -- homeowners are not allowed to alter the course of the streams or the pond, thus ensuring the survival of this urban oasis.
This is an important little spot for the local wildlife. Many of the local herons that I take pictures of when we kayak out of nearby Cadboro Bay nest here at Mystic Pond. Without trying hard, we counted at a dozen heron nests just in one tree.
But the herons weren't around today, only mallard ducks. So we left the ducks to the pond, while we planned another kayaking trip on a less windy day.

Noodles Can Do So Much!

Saturday I didn't get on the water, but I did get some errands run. And there was an interesting news story in the local paper, about a pool noodle that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Noodles! Is there anything they can't do? They make improvised cushions for roof racks for your kayak, or for strapping the kayak directly to a car's roof (for goshsakes be sure to tie down the bow too, eh?). They also make good sponsons or can be snaked into a sit-on-top to keep it from filling with water. Bits of pool noodle make good rope floats. Yup, they have many uses. And now the local paper has let us know yet another application for noodles.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Who Needs a Paddle Anyway?

So you want to go kayaking but just aren't interested in all that annoying, you know, paddling? Have we got the kayak for you!
Meet the Jetbuster Jetrider XT, capable of splitting the waves at 40kmh (and denting your wallet at $3000). Jetbuster used to be Surfango -- check out their new website.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Best Part of My Day

Kayaking really is the best part of any day. A good day, a bad day, a busy day or a slow one -- any kind of day is better when I can get on the water.
Good evening and welcome to Day 4 of the migraine; not a "pain" migraine, but a "stupid" migraine. Though my coordination is the pits at this kind of time, that's not a problem with the nice wide stable inflatable kayak I use most days. Ya gotta lean waaaayyy over to tip this puppy.
Sleeping late, lounging around like a day with the 'flu, and a nice warm bath after kayaking equals feeling pretty good. Can't do everything, but doing what I can is good. And I can still paddle 4 klicks an hour even on a foggy head day. No real fog on the water, though. The overcast came down to the ridge full of big Douglas fir trees at the top of Mystic Vale, and it looked foggy there, caught in the trees. A slow ebb current kept things changing at the shoreline, even though the ocean and sky looked static and gray. My boat was the only colour from the beach out to Flower Island and back, till I saw an arbutus and a kingfisher.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kittens in a Kayak

I'm nursing a minor foot injury this weekend, so we didn't head out for a paddle. But we couldn't let the weekend go by without putting something on the blog.
The title pretty much says it all. If you haven't reached your cuteness threshold for the day, this quick video will put you over the top:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lost in Mongolia

Two years after Colin Angus and two buddies descended down the Amazon in a rubber raft, Colin was taking part in another adventure. This time he and his companions were descending the entire length of the the Yenisey River in Russia, one of the last great rivers in the world to be travelled from source to mouth. Using kayaks and a raft, they journeyed from Mongolia through the Siberian outback to the Arctic Ocean battling floods, heat waves and the Russian mob. And along the way, the group gets separated after the raft capsizes and Colin has to survive without supplies or clean water for twelve days. [SPOILER ALERT: Obviously, he survived to write the book, entitled appropriately Lost in Mongolia.]
Another in Angus’s growing collection of true-life travel tales, it’s a solidly written yarn of adventure in a strange land and well-worth checking out.

Winter Paddling Neighbours

Kayaking in the winter is the best part of a cold day! I was glad to get out on the water this mid-week morning.

It was good to see that I wasn't the only one. Beth and other SISKA members were getting ready to launch at Gyro Park. This week, their regular Wednesday morning paddle was launching in Cadboro Bay. Of course, they were properly geared-up in drysuits, pogues and all, with their sea kayaks. I hope they had a good time, cuz the weather was certainly right for it -- not too cold and no breeze to speak of.

I was out for only an hour in my little inflatable, in my shortie wetsuit and a merino wool sweater. As a concession to the morning's frozen puddles I had neoprene soft shoes and the cold weather cap that spends most of the year clipped inside my PFD. Out around Flower Island and back, no sea monsters this time.

It was good to see the usual neighbours: geese and coots and herons and seagulls, hooded Merganser ducks. Dogs were racing around the arbutus trees on one waterfront property, where the owner was doing chores. Always nice to see people on the shoreline.
Even the cops patrolling the end of Cadboro Bay Beach where there's access to Telegraph Bay Road, which was blocked today by crime scene tape.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot

Louise and I didn't go kayaking today. A bit rainy, a bit windy, and the tides weren't friendly. (Despite what Bill O'Reilly thinks, we know how the tides work.)
Which isn't to say that we didn't see any wildlife. We discovered a lone goose wandering up and down our driveway. Never had one do that before.
But the main reason we aren't on the water today is that we just received a large delivery from Ikea and we are up to our bůttøcks in Snøckergrïts, Splůrgs, Mlaks, and Fükenğröövĕns.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Antarctica Dreams

Today we have a special guest blogger. Late last year, my sister took the cruise of a lifetime to Antarctica. One of the activities was kayaking among the icebergs and she has graciously provided a small write-up and some pictures. And so with many thanks I say, take it away, sis:

Antarctica. WOW. Not enough words to adequately describe this incredible and beautiful location. Pictures can show the expanse, the vivid colours, the fun and lovable animals, the mountains et cetera, but they will never capture the 360 degree view, the warmth of the sun, the chill of the wind, or what is felt deep inside. It was the dream of my lifetime and I shall be forever changed by it.

Among the activities we were able to participate in (and there were some very different and fun ones) were kayaking, zodiac cruises and shore landings. What made them exceptional was the fact that we were blessed with fabulous weather that kept up for most of the trip. The organization of getting 150 people geared up and into the zodiacs and kayaks worked like a fine-tuned machine.

The zodiac rides were exhilarating and the kayak excursions were special moments in time. Although we would have loved to travel further afield while kayaking, we had to keep within certain boundaries and the captain would let the crew know if he was getting nervous with our adventurous ways.
For the times we were in the water, it was like kayaking on glass or a mirror. Crystal clear reflections as we paddled our way through and around turqoise colored icebergs, sunning penquins and lazing seals. Everywhere we went, the scenery was overwhelming.
At one point, a zodiac from the ship made its way among the kayakers bearing gifts - hot chocolate and Baileys. Talk about unreal!

Hope that you enjoy the pictures. Never give up on your dreams.

A technical note: the kayaks used were Aire Sea Tigers.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Portage Inlet

The temperature was a relatively mild 2C when Richard and I launched for a paddle up the Gorge this morning, but the cold north breeze made for a chilly day on the water. Moderate wind forecasts and the chance of snow in the forecast prompted us to pick a relatively protected spot to paddle today, however we sure felt that cold north air whenever it crossed our path.

It was pleasant enough when Richard and I started out.
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As we headed down The Gorge a pair of swans took off in front of us. I managed to get a shot of them taking off, as well as a shot of me getting the shot of them taking off.
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They are big birds, and they need a lot of runway to get off the ground.

Once we got into the Inlet, we turned into that wind and started feeling the cold in a hurry. Fortunately for Richard he had a very fashionable lime green hood to pull up.
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We ducked into a little estuary and stumbled upon another family of swans, two adults and three adolescents. It's always nice to see that the local swan population is doing well.
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We carried on up Craigflower Creek...
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...hoping that the water level was high enough that we could get around the fallen tree and into the tunnel under Highway 1. We've done this a few times over the years, and it's always a highlight of any paddle down the creek.
But today we discovered that the fall rains have brought down another tree off the bank, totally plugging up the channel behind the roots of the big tree that we would use to get around.
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The way through is now totally impassable for kayaks, unless you want get out and haul your boat over the large tree trunk. Hopefully there's still enough room for salmon to get around come spawning season, but for kayakers this way is now permanently closed until someone brings in a chainsaw.
Needless to say we were disappointed, but what else could we do except take it in stride?
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And by then it seemed like a good time to turn back and get warm.
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Trip Length: 9.88 km
YTD: 22.20 km
More pictures are here.
2011-01-09 Portage Inlet

Change of Plans and Baby Seal Pamphlet

My planned kayak time got cancelled abruptly this morning, when Bernie came in after walking our landlady's dogs. One of them was not well, so it was time to take the dog to the vet. In a few moments we were out the door, after eating our oatmeal, leaving a voicemail for Louise to explain my non-arrival in paddling gear, and booking a car from the Victoria CarShare Co-op.
The waiting room at the pet hospital has some pamphlets for nervous or bored humans to read while waiting with their pets. I was pleased to see a pamphlet titled "What to do if you find a baby seal." In large, friendly letters, it says "DON'T TOUCH the babies" -- and it shows a photo of an adorable baby harbour seal.
The pamphlet was written by the BC SPCA's Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre. It's a good reminder that when we kayakers or beach-walkers see baby seals "all alone" on the rocks, the young seals are usually fine. The mother seals are usually just out of sight nearby. The pamphlet says if a person truly thinks the baby seal needs help, to call the Wild ARC at 250-478-9453. That number is good for anywhere in the Greater Victoria area.
We wrote about how to report a marine animal in distress here on the Kayak Yak blog.
If you see a baby seal in distress (perhaps visibly injured, or dead parent nearby)
please call DFO’s Observe, Record and Report 24-hour hotline at 1-800-465-4336. That number is toll-free. Call to report any sightings of marine mammals in distress. If you happen to see a sea turtle, healthy or in distress, call the DFO!
Closer to home, no signs of distress. The landlady's dog is currently waiting at the pet hospital for the vet to finish with another animal, so I'm sitting by the phone waiting to hear the verdict. When not on the water, the next best thing is talking about kayaking, so today's blog post got written.
The dog is fine.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

William Shatner Kayak

Yes, you may have noticed that I'm a bit of a geek. So just for fun I googled "william shatner kayak." He's an outdoorsy type, I might get an interesting hit or two. But I found something crazy right off the top. Here's a clip from 1978, a Battle of the Network Stars segment showing a kayak relay race featuring such stars as Richard Hatch, David Letterman, and The Shat himself. And the race is called by Howard Cosell. How's that for a peek at a bygone era?
Here's the clip -- enjoy:

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Odd Product

Kayaks are well-known for allowing wilderness travellers to bring along more supplies than they can carry. Most sea kayaks can carry more stuff than any backpack! Even my Eliza, with slim lines and small hatches, still has space for more cargo than I would care to carry along a hiking trail.
But how do people carry more cargo than fits into their kayak hatches? One intrepid paddling pioneer used to swim around islands in Hawaii, towing a floating picnic cooler along. Some stand-up paddleboarders keep a drybag on the board's deck. I wonder if my little inflatable could be towed behind a kayak, as a sort of cargo trailer.
Turns out other people have had a similar idea. There's a gizmo invented to be a kind of cargo trailer for kayaks. They call it a Kayak Kaboose. I wonder how well it works. It sure looks like a neat idea.

Monday, January 03, 2011

A Quickie to Chatham

Caddy Bay Pano
This morning it was -2 degrees, a bit of a step up from Saturday's -4. But while Saturday's weather was sunny and clear, today was unexpectedly cloudy which resulted in a wonderful sunrise as we prepped for launch. We also had a bit of a breeze, not enough to be a worry while paddling, but enough of one to add an extra chill to the morning. The sun was trying to burn through the clouds but didn't look like it was going to accomplish much in that regard.

Louise, Paula and I got ourselves ready to put in at Cadboro Bay. Paula always likes to do a little air guitar before kayaking.

Richard joined us a few minutes later. He hasn't been in his kayak since September and couldn't understand why it was so heavy as he carried it down to the beach. Then he realized that since he keeps his kayak outside and he has a small hole in his rear hatch, rain water had spent the last three months dripping into his kayak, and that rainwater had frozen solid over the last few days.
Paula had a good laugh until she remembered that she keeps her kayak outside as well, and she hadn't checked her hatches either. She put ashore to double check.

A few minutes later we were underway...
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...but some of us found the conditions just too chilly and couldn't get thoughts of chai tea lattés out of their heads. So we quickly did a crossing to Chatham....
...then headed back.
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As we passed Flower Island, I peeled off to see if the otters I saw on Saturday were still around. They weren't, but two oystercatchers and a merganser were enjoying the cloudy day.
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And as we neared the beach, as per Murphy the sun came out.
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Trip Length: 7.57 km
YTD: 12.32 km
More pictures are here.
2011-01-03 Chatham

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Looking at GearJunkie

The SPOT devices that our paddle group uses have an interesting connection. The SPOT company has teamed up with to bring users of SPOT devices together. So I went over to the GearJunkie website today to see what it was.
Not a bad website at all, for anyone who enjoys outdoor activities and is willing to admit to a fascination for the various bits of gear that make said activities a wee bit more convenient. Not all the gear is expensive electronic devices like the SPOT (oi! anything that costs more than taking three friends out for fish & chip dinner is expensive to me). The guy at the centre of GearJunkie had a giveaway over the Christmas season that endeared him to me. Check here for the page on his website describing the winner of a free kayak, and how the new kayaker intends to use his new boat.
Now, if you'll excuse me, it's sunny and bright and I want to go out to look at the water.
The bay was beautiful as the daylight faded. The cone of Mt Rainier was dimly visible! And earlier, I saw Mt Baker while walking home from the library, so this was another Two Volcano Day. Only my cough kept me off the water ... I'll be paddling in the morning.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Year's Paddle

-5C and dark. That's what you get when you get up before the sun does. By the time Louise and I made our way to Cadboro Bay beach for the first paddle of the new year a couple of hours later, the temperature had risen to a balmy -4. But at least it was no longer dark.
Caddy Pano 2

We met Paula for a quick paddle to start the New Year. The highlight was going to be us taking pictures of Bernie taking his annual polar bear swim. Louise is fighting a cold but volunteered to photograph Bernie from shore and I was was going to take shots from my kayak. However, Paula informed us that Bernie woke up feeling under the weather and had decided to hibernate instead. So Louise didn't get any pictures of Bernie, but she did get one of me all geared up and redy to go.

Paula started out in her small inflatable while I was still gearing up. I told her I would catch up as she paddled along the south side of Ten Mile Point.
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As I departed a few minutes later, I tried to keep an eye out for her but the sun was low to the horizon and she was lost in the glare. We finally connected near Sheep Cove and paddled together towards Flower Island.
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We saw the occasional seal head pop up here and there, as well as a heron who seemed to take special delight in tormenting photographers. I spotted him on the shore off a small rocky islet, and I carefully maneuvered so that the low sun was behind me. I pulled my big camera out of its waterproof bag, but just as my camera was ready, he flew off. He didn't fly far, just from the shore to the top of the islet, but I had to pack up the camera and reposition myself to try again. And again, it was as soon as I had the camera ready that he moved, but this time he didn't fly. He merely took a few steps down the far side of the rocky outcropping and out of my sight. I could almost feel his disdain -- apparently I wasn't even worth the bother of flying away from!
Paula hung around Flower Island, but I ventured out a bit to watch the wind and the currents working. We were near the end of a huge high tide, and the current was going to pick up later in the day with a fast-flowing ebb. The breeze picked up a bit as I paddled into in the more open channel. I looked over saw Mount Baker looming in the distance.
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Earlier in the bay we could just barely make out the top of Mount Rainer, so today was what Paula likes to call a two-volcano day.

As I headed back towards Paula at Flower Island, I could see she was over by Evans Rock on the south-ish side, and as I came closer, she paddled towards me with a look of concentration that made me think that she was trying to impart some message to me telepathically.
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As we met, she said, "Go slowly around. On the left side of that rock there's two otters."
After being burned by that heron, I was certainly willing to try to get a few shots of the otters.
At first I only saw one otter....
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...and he was busy rubbing his ass against a big log. How charming.
But as they scampered around the rock...
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...I quickly realized that there were three otters on the rock.
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I don't think the otters even realized we were there. Paula had drifted behind me as I took pictures, then the otters hit the ocean for a swim. They followed Paula for a while...
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...until they finally realized that something big and red was behind them and they disappeared with quick splashes of their tails.

After that we headed back towards shore....
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...where we looked down the beach and saw Mike Jackson and some buddies putting in for their first paddle of the year. Guess my lead over him for most paddles this year is not going to last long!

Trip Length: 4.75 km
YTD: 4.75 km
More pictures are here.
2011-01-01 New Year's Paddle